The Versions of Us
by Laura Barnett
Now, I must confess, I have a salad bowl of opinions when it comes to this novel novel (see what I did there ;)).
The purpose of this book is to explore the different roads that people's lives can lead depending on the tiniest decision or the most microscopic-seeming object being in a different place. Eva's story starts when she's riding her bike down the streets of Cambridge.
Three things could happen:
- A dog and a nail cause Eva to collapse on her bike, causing her to meet Jim. She leaves her former lover, David, and marries Jim.
- Eva has a safe ride home, marries David, and doesn't meet Jim until years later.
- A dog and a nail cause Eva to collapse on her bike, causing her to meet Jim. She courts Jim for a while but then finds out she's pregnant with David's baby and leaves to marry him.
I have to compliment Barnett on the novelty of this plot. It's something I have seen before, but never to this quality. Combining three plots, with the same characters and very closely related relationships, is hard to do without completely losing the reader, and I think Barnett did an astounding job. The fact that I didn't put this book down half way through is a sure indicator of that!
On the other hand, the characters I had mixed feelings about. I feel as if they didn't have as much substance as I would have liked and, although I did enjoy reading their stories, I couldn't relate to them emotionally at all. I would have liked to, but I just couldn't. On a brighter note though, the characters were not in the slightest dislikeable and I would more than happily read about them again, however, preferably with a little more "oomph" as I shall call it. Let's make a call to 3D-ify characters in books a little further!
One thing that I found hard in this book was getting sucked in. The ever-switching story versions really messed with my head and I found myself having to spend a few minutes trying to remember what happened in that version - sometimes to no avail - before I could read the chapter. I'm a very confused person in general though, so I'm not sure to what extent I can attribute this to the author's writing! Many other people seemed to have coped alright though, so I would just say to beware if you're like me and have a very disorganised mind because this is a Rubik's cube of a book for us mess-heads!
To end this review on a positive note, I would like to compliment Barnett on her absolutely amazing ability to conduct the tone of the different periods (1958-2014) written into the pages of this book. That was probably my favourite part of this book, as everything just felt so as it should be!